CHOICE sent a letter of complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in 2008 regarding VitaminWater and its mockery of food labelling laws.
Their response was underwhelming: “It is the view of the ACCC that the product labelling does not create a misleading impression to ordinary consumers that the product has any particular health benefits. Rather, the representations amounts to puffery. As such, the ACCC will not be taking any further action in relation to this matter."
The US allows enhanced water to carry claims such as “reduces the risk of chronic disease”, “promotes healthy joints” and “supports optimal immune function”. But the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), is currently suing Coca Cola for “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims” in relation to VitaminWater. While America has different labelling laws to Australia some of the complaints made by CSPI are not dissimilar to points we raised with the ACCC.
In Australia, enhanced waters are made according to permissions outlined in Standard 2.6.2 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. This permits vitamins and minerals to be added to water-based beverages that may be sweetened with sugar, fruit juice and/or artificial sweeteners.
CHOICE opposed these permissions because we believed it would result in misleading promotions – and enhanced waters are a sign we were right.